A small, beautiful tradition

I was so thrilled to learn yesterday that Penn State is continuing its tradition of naming some of its residence halls after people of historical and communal merit, rather than simply financial merit:

At today’s (July 22) meeting of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, held on the Wilkes-Barre campus, trustees approved names for two new residence halls currently under construction on the University Park campus. The residences halls, located in the North Halls and East Halls areas, are scheduled to be completed in fall 2017.

The new 310-bed residence hall in North Halls has been named Robinson Hall, in honor of Sarah E. Robinson. Robinson was hired in 1871 by the then-Agricultural College of Pennsylvania to be its first music instructor. The student body numbered 75, and Robinson’s appointment brought the faculty to a total of 10.

One of the process steps in determining building names is discussion with students about the possibilities, according to Gail Hurley, Penn State’s associate vice president for Auxiliary and Business Services.

“Students favored Ms. Robinson because a significant cohort of Arts and Architecture students live in North Halls and many are associated with the School of Music,” said Hurley. “In addition, Robinson Hall will be the first in North to be named after a prominent woman.”

East Hall’s new 336-bed residence hall is named in honor of Pennsylvania Gov. George Howard Earle II, who served from 1935 to 1939. All of East’s buildings are named for governors of the Commonwealth.

Earle Hall is part of a larger East Halls expansion and renovation project that began in July 2015. The largest residential complex on the University Park campus, East has a total of 14 residential halls that currently house 3,825 students, primarily first-year students.

Gov. Earle was a staunch supporter of Penn State and instrumental in funding 10 building projects on campus that increased the physical plant by 50 percent at the time. He also was an advocate for changing the name of the then-Pennsylvania State College to The Pennsylvania State University.

Especially at Penn State, a state-affiliated place of learning founded for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s sons and daughters, place-names should always have a greater story to tell than who happened to have the most money at particular points in history.